Over the last few years demand for cloud solutions has spawned a multi-billion pound industry. Whilst many large multi-national companies make use of cloud solutions, it is small and medium sized businesses that appear to be benefiting from virtualisation the most. This is due to the fact that cloud computing allows businesses to make cost savings, whilst also achieving growth.
In this article we will provide a guide to cloud computing solutions for SMEs, explaining some of the various different services available and their benefits.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services. Basically everything from servers to hardware and software can now be delivered from a virtual location via the internet.
Today cloud solution providers allow their clients to store their important data in their data centres by uploading it to ‘the cloud.’ They can then access their data at any time from any location, providing they have a connection to the internet and the necessary security login details. Both hardware and software applications can also be delivered via the cloud, preventing businesses from having to purchase them and install them in the work place.
Different types of cloud services
There are three main types of cloud computing services. These are infrastructure as a service (e.g. servers and data centres,) platform as a service (e.g. hosted desktops, VOIP) and software as a service (security tools, email, CRM). Pretty much everything can now be delivered via the cloud from an IT service provider to their business clients. Take a look at some of the most popular cloud solutions used by SMEs below.
Virtualised cloud servers
Traditionally businesses would need to purchase and maintain expensive server equipment in order to host their important business data and files. These servers would have to be replaced every few years in order to ensure the data was being stored efficiently and securely. As you can imagine a data centre is very expensive to run. Not only do businesses have to cover the cost of the equipment, but also the on-going cost of utility bills and maintenance. For many SMEs, running a physical data centre is simply out of the question.
Whilst this posed problems for SMEs in the past, today they can simply make use of IT support companies’ virtualised cloud servers. All of their files can now be uploaded to the cloud and housed securely in their cloud provider’s server. They can also benefit from their IT companies’ technicians and engineers maintaining the data centres, eliminating the loss of data through downtime. In order to access their data and files, businesses simply log onto the virtualised server online using security details supplied by their provider.
Hosted back up and disaster recovery
Many SMEs make use of hosted data back up and disaster recovery solutions. Cloud providers enable their business clients to back their important files up onto their data centres (via the cloud) ensuring they have copies, should anything happen to the technology in their work place. If for one reason or other a business loses its data on-site, they can simply access their cloud provider’s website remotely and re-store their data.
Hosted desktops and applications
More and more SMEs now make use of hosted desktops and applications. One of the benefits of being able to receive software as a service, is that they have access to the latest programs, without having to physically buy them and install them on their computers themselves. No longer do they have to worry about upgrading software, as their cloud provider will cover the cost in their monthly fees.
Benefits of cloud computing for SMEs
Using cloud solutions can help SMEs make huge cost savings. Whilst reducing the initial cost of set-up, cloud solutions also reduce on-going maintenance costs. All businesses need to do is pay a small monthly fee to their cloud provider for the services they receive.
When a business works with a cloud service provider, it is the cloud service provider that becomes responsible for the IT assets and maintenance. This means that businesses can focus on their operations, rather than their IT, helping them to achieve higher levels of productivity.
Cloud computing offers businesses a variety of ways they can increase their IT capacity and functionality, without having to purchase expensive new infrastructure, hire extra personnel or cover the cost of new software.
Choosing a cloud service provider
Moving your IT operations to the cloud will be one of the best decisions you ever make for your business. It is certainly the way forward, particularly for SMEs and will help you gain a competitive advantage. However, before you can reap the benefits, you first need to decide on the best cloud service provider to work with. Follow our simple tips below and you should be well on your way to choosing the perfect cloud service provider to meet your business’s needs and requirements.
Before you choose a cloud service provider, it is important to shop around to make sure you get the best deal. Find out what various different companies are pricing their services at, so you can get a better idea of what is reasonable.
Look for bespoke packages
It is highly recommended that you look for cloud service providers that offer their clients bespoke packages. This means you can pick and choose the cloud solutions you require and will never have to pay for anything that you do not use.
Some cloud service providers specialise in working with small and medium sized enterprises. Working with one of these providers will be incredibly beneficial, as they will have a better understanding of your needs and requirements and will know how to cater for them through their services.
Find out their credentials
Once you have shortlisted a number of companies, you will need to find out their credentials. It is important to enquire about the security of their data centres. Find out how often they are maintained and how secure they are. It may also be worth asking the IT companies about their downtimes rates. The lower the rate, the safer your data will be.
Enquire about customer service
Although your IT cloud provider will be managing your data remotely and providing you with virtualised services, it is likely that you will have questions from time to time. Therefore it is important to make sure that the IT Company is able to provide you with the necessary levels of customer support. When choosing a provider (such as Cheeky Munkey), enquire about their customer support service, finding out how you can communicate with them and their average response time for queries.
Ask for references
Last but certainly not least, it is important to make sure you always ask cloud solution providers for references to check that past and present clients are happy with the services they have received. It is also worth searching for the provider online to see if anything (whether positive or negative) has been written about them. Carrying out your own research and obtaining references will help you get a better idea of whether the IT support company and the cloud solutions are right for your business.
Cloud computing is in essence, the concept of having services and resources delivered to you, on demand. Firstnet is helping clients excel in cloud computing, providing secure and reliable Software as a Service.